Bad news: you’ve been involved in a car crash. Worse news: you’re not sure how to handle the insurance part. Good news: we’re here to walk you through it.
It's happened to all of us: that sudden noise or bang in your car, and the sinking feeling as you realise that your day is now ruined, and you're going to have to fix your car. But what to do next? You think you know, but in the moment you can realise, you actually have no idea what happens next. In fact, the most Googled car questions are all about what comes after you're in an accident, and you need to access your car insurance. So let's take you through it.
Accidents happen, and if every avoidable incident resulted in a rejected insurance claim, insurance companies would lose clients pretty quickly. But if your car isn't roadworthy, or if you were speeding, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or driving recklessly (eg. texting while driving) your insurer could – and probably will – reject your claim.
According to Legal Wise, your claim could also be rejected if you move your vehicle, flee the scene of the accident, destroy potential evidence or admit to the other party that it's your fault (admitting liability could be considered evidence against you).
When talking insurance, excess refers to the amount you have to pay towards getting the required repairs done. It's traditionally the first amount you'll have to pay in the event of a loss and covers the uninsured portion of your loss. Often the business that repairs your vehicle will require you to pay this amount before you can drive your car away.
Your insurer might decide to do their own investigation into the accident, which could delay your claim. A typical insurance investigation will look at breathalyser tests, cell phone records and tracker reports (among other pieces of evidence) to ensure you weren't breaking the law when the accident happened. This could take a few days, but, as Bregman Moodley Attorneys point out, you shouldn't wait longer than 10 days for a reply to your claim, unless there's good reason for the delay.
Not happy with your insurer's decision? You do have options to appeal it. Go through your insurer's internal escalation processes and dispute-resolution mechanisms, and if you don't get any joy, approach the Ombudsman for Short-term Insurance. Senior Assistant Ombudsman Peter Nkhuna says, "We would investigate, establish material facts and, on the basis of the available evidence, adjudicate on the merits of the dispute."
What factors might affect the ombudsman's decision? "Facts, evidence, law and considerations of fairness and equity," says Nkhuna.
If the cost to repair the damage exceeds the insured value of your vehicle, your insurer might decide to 'write off' the car. Legally, if your car has been demolished or declared permanently unfit to be on a public road, you must deregister that vehicle. You can do this at your local traffic department (licensing authority), and the deregistration is typically processed there and then.
Then it goes full circle: your car must be registered in terms of the current South African legislation in order to qualify for vehicle insurance. No registration, no cover... So if it's written off, it must be deregistered; and if it's deregistered, it can't be insured.
When it comes to insurance, it always pays to compare quotes so that you know what you're covered for. Use our free online tool to compare car insurance quotes, and then rest easy knowing you got the best deal.
The information in this article is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as financial or legal advice.